An 18-year-veteran of the Marine Corps who did tours of service in Iraq and Afghanistan earning a Bronze Star was hoping for some much-needed dad time with his kids.
So retired 1st Sgt. Jeromie Slaughter, 38, planned a deer-hunting trip with them a few hours from his Houston-area home — a trip that became an odyssey when he took a wrong turn and wound up arrested in Ciudad Acuña, Mexico, for carrying weapons.
And when his family tried to find a Mexican lawyer to represent him, the ones they contacted asked for cash in U.S. dollars to help secure his release, Slaughter’s mother, Beverly McKinney, said.
“A shakedown is what it was,” McKinney told Fox News Latino.
According to McKinney, the Texas City resident piled into his pickup with his 14-year-old son and 9-year-old daughter after Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday. They were heading for a deer lease – private property that’s open to hunters for a fee – near Rocksprings, about 70 miles from the U.S.-Mexico border, about a 6-hour drive.
Instead, Slaughter made a wrong turn and, at about 1 a.m. Friday morning, wound up crossing a bridge into Ciudad Acuña, across the border from Del Rio, Texas.
“He knew they were lost, and when he saw the sign that said ‘No guns,’ you know, no weapons, he knew that he had gone too far,” McKinney told Houston television station KPCR-2.
Slaughter asked to turn around, but Mexican immigration agents didn’t allow it, detaining him after they found three hunting rifles in the vehicle.
The agents allowed him to call his mom.
"I was beside myself," McKinney said. "You know I waited for those kind of calls when he was in the military, not hunting."
According to McKinney, the kids were released Friday afternoon into the custody of Slaughter’s grandfather and are now back with their mother in Texas City.
Slaughter wasn’t released until later that night.
It was frustrating, McKinney told FNL on Monday, because Mexican officials "were treating him like he is a terrorist. He was on a hunting trip, [he is] not a terrorist. He has fought them, he isn’t one."
“He was not treated well,” she added. “He wasn’t given anything to eat or drink. They strip searched him at least twice.”
And they kept being told that it would take anywhere between $1,000 and $25,000 to get Slaughter released. In the end, however, they hired a lawyer in Del Rio who helped secure his release.
“Jeromie worked security for the State Department when he was with the Marines,” McKinney said, “so we called their Houston office. They were not helpful – just gave me other numbers to call that I already had.”
McKinney said that Slaughter remains in Del Rio, trying to arrange for the return of his truck. “We haven’t had too many long conversations,” she told FNL. “He’s just trying to keep it together.”
Despite the trouble, things might have gone worse for Slaughter.
In 2014, U.S. Marine reservist Andrew Tahmooressi was held in Mexican jails for 5 months after mistakenly crossing into Mexico at the San Ysidro border checkpoint in California. Tahmooressi faced a potentially longer prison term because he was caught with handguns.